With 2012 arriving today, we take a look back at the highs and lows of television in 2011. Each of our staff members chose a winner and runner-up for each award, which includes standard categories like best drama/comedy and dubious awards such as the show that needs to end the most.
Ali 1. Game of Thrones 2. Breaking Bad
Game of Thrones isn’t likely to anger anyone as a choice for best drama this year, although there will undoubtedly be a number of people stating cases for other heavyweight contenders in this category. In terms of actual quality and execution, it is a near toss-up between Game of Thrones and my runner-up, but for me the title falls to the fantasy-drama for one simple reason: it’s new. In just ten episodes, Game of Thrones has established a plethora of characters (and I mean plethora, there are an awful lot of important characters in this show) and the world that they live in, relying on subtle and in-depth conflict to drive the story over huge battle sequences that they easily could have slotted in. If you have avoided the source material, then the show not only draws you in, but the twists in the story are some of the more genuinely shocking moments in recent TV history, creating all-around compelling television. The cast is exceptional with even child-actors standing their ground amongst their elders and the writing seldom slips below perfect.
A much more established show, Breaking Bad had nothing to prove with its fourth season, but that didn’t stop everyone involved with the show from trying and succeeding. I have seen mixed opinions about this most recent outing from the Bryan Cranston-lead-drug-fueled-behemoth in terms of how it shapes up against its predecessors, but for me, season four was the stand out. Despite several tense moments in the previous three seasons in which you thought maybe it was all about to fall down for Walter White, none of them came close to what we got this year. We spent the entire season in the genuine belief that anyone could die at any moment and that jail would nearly be the optimal outcome at this point. The acting was a strong as ever and it was more than supported by the writing, and whilst the finale may have taken one or two turns that warped the show’s standing in reality, this year was another excellent chapter in the life of Walter White.
Narcisse 1. Once Upon a Time 2. Fringe
Once Upon a Time has so far been almost flawless in its retelling of fairy tales, turning them into fascinating stories for adults and to some extent, the family. The episodes are so well put together that moving between Storybrooke (Maine) and the fairy tale world is as smooth as it can be, with storylines on each side keeping the viewer spellbound. In addition to the impressive story structure, the series offers refreshing reinterpretations touching on many more themes and delivering much more compelling characters than the source material. All that works so well because the show's creators have grounded the stories by building almost everything around the same characters (Evil Queen, Snow White and Prince Charming) and by ensuring a seamless continuity by setting all fairy tales in the same fantasy world and within the same timeline. It also doesn't hurt that stories in Storybrooke are driven by an adorable boy whose intoxicating convictions are reinforced with every single adventure while adults try to hold on to rational explanations.
Fringe procured at its height during the year a very different, but no less satisfying sense of wonder. Unfortunately, the show suffers from having the strongest part of its amazing third season in 2010 and many more episodes in 2011 than Once Upon a Time. What the show did right was done extremely well, and because it capitalized very well on its outstanding fall 2010 beginning of season, I think it deserves its place as runner-up. Over the year, it took us through the gradual mending of the Olivia/Peter relationship ("Concentrate and Ask Again", "6B"), and dove beautifully into an exploration of father/son relationships ("The Firefly", "Os"). It then took a trip back into the past to reinforce the bond between the lead characters ("Subject 13") before starting a touching redemption ("Immortality", "Bloodline"). It finally threw in a most amazing standalone episode ("Stowaway"), all that while preparing for the breathtaking multi-episode ending (that admittedly fizzled a bit at the very end).
Vincent 1.Game of Thrones 2. Boardwalk Empire
2011 was not a sleeper year for television, so the competition for best drama is pretty high. However, two big standouts come to mind with Game of Thrones taking the crown here. The epic political drama set in a medieval and slightly fantasy world is no Lord of The Rings clone. Instead of focusing on wizards or magical objects, the show focuses on something far more dangerous… greedy and devious people. Each episode of this freshman show ups the ante and is better than the episode that preceded it.
The show also has the rare trait of feeling like anything can change at any moment, since it does kill off both a major protagonist and also its most badass character in season one. Between the writing, production value, acting, and other major elements, this was the best drama of the year. Boardwalk Empire comes a close second, but every moment of Game of Thrones felt important, while there were several moments in the middle of Boardwalk’s season where it felt overly slow. However, a very strong beginning and especially end made up for it. Both shows have a lot in common, such as a strong ensemble cast, unpredictable plots, and huge scope.
Narcisse 1. Awkward (MTV) 2. New Girl (Fox)
What MTV did with Awkward was surprising, in the best of ways. The cast performance is often reminiscent of movies like Clueless and Juno in which satire and irony are exquisitely used. With her voice-over commentary and her attitude, the main character Jenna Hamilton makes fun of society and laughs at herself without hiding the often sad details on which the comic elements are built. Considering its title, ironically, this is not a show that thrives on awkward scenes like a typical situation comedy, but one that builds on the conflicts and the chaos of teenage life, helped by an impressive female cast. In keeping with tradition in such a setting, the villainess is a high school cheerleader, but the show has made a very unusual choice by casting an actress with a silhouette that resolutely breaks with tradition. The deliciously devilish cheerleader, Jenna's unbelievably superficial (but rather touching) mother, and the inimitable school counselor are the backbone of the show that has many, many reasons to unsettle the Parents Television Council.
Fox's New Girl is not in the same league as MTV's Awkward, but still seems to be much better than every other comedy I have tried (and ultimately failed) to watch this year. I suspect the reason why I kept it as a distant runner-up is the fact that it's new, so it hasn't yet had time to go in circle like any respectable sitcom should. I was at first put off by Zoe Deschanel's Jessica, but the character grows on you, which is not the case for Schmidt, one of her roommates. Your attraction to the show will ultimately depend on your ability to stomach Deschanel's goofy and dorky character. If that works, then like me, you might start enjoying the stories that do not pretend to be too deep. but can really be funny, especially when Schmidt behaves or is not present. I believe depth in a comedy is a nice-to-have (even if the best comedies have it), but the wrong type of humor (for the specific viewer) is a show stopper.
Ali 1. Community 2. Parks and Recreation
Community: For me, this is a semi-biased category as I really don’t watch nearly as much comedy as I do drama, therefore eliminating several possibilities that would be included on others' lists, but I do stand firmly in the belief that even if all I did all day long was watch every comedy on television, Community would still be the best thing that I watched. Some people have had issues with early parts of the third season (I am not one of them), but to those I would simply point out that half of season two also aired this year as well and we all know how the turned out! The show is an amalgamation of every imaginable approach to comedy with a near unparalleled cast and some of the smartest writing around. Whilst different people are going to find different things funny, so much is covered in each half-hour block that it’s impossible not to love. The back half of season two was good, but season three has delivered some of, if not the best material to date.
Parks and Recreation: You got me! I watch NBC comedies. If you haven’t seen Parks and Recreation and I tried to explain to you why it was funny, I really doubt that it would land. The premise seems incredibly boring if nothing else, but you really just have to watch it to see that you were stupid to ever think that. Unlike Community, the writing is not necessarily that much of a strength, rather the line delivery is what makes the show funny. Each cast member has developed the characters as the show has progressed, as is evident by it just being funnier now that it used to be. It falls into a fairly typical sitcom feel, despite the documentary style of shooting, but that really isn’t a negative; it’s typical because it works. There are strong and believable character relationships backed up by a genuinely funny cast.
Vincent 1. John Hannah (Spartacus: Gods of the Arena) 2. Kelsey Grammer (Boss)
Even though the setting and themes of both these actors’ shows are wildly different, I am picking them for similar reasons. Both of these men can effortlessly transition into hurt, enraged, happy, sad, genius, confused, powerful, and just about everything in-between. Due to the combination of their talents with good writing, they are both some of the more complex and interesting characters on TV who also have the duality of a real person.
Ali 1. John Noble (Fringe) 2. Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad)
John Noble: For me, best actor is probably the most difficult category to hand out this year as pretty much every leading man in every major drama is a genuine contender for the victory. John Noble is one of those men (despite technically not even constituting a leading man). If you’ve never heard of him, I honestly wouldn’t be surprised, but if anyone ever deserved some recognition for his talents, it is this man. The third season of Fringe brought out something extraordinary in his talent as the character of Walter Bishop (both of them) was developed far beyond what had previously been committed to screen. The consequences of his actions were beyond imagination and you felt the gravity through his performance. The fourth season introduced us to yet another version of the man who was just as compelling and his talent is not diminishing any time soon.
Bryan Cranston: It would be pretty much impossible to not have Bryan Cranstonin the top two of an acting list, so I’m going to go for second just so John Noble can win something for once. The fourth season of Breaking Bad took Walter White to new emotional extremes that needed an extreme talent to portray them to the extent that was required, and he did it and then some. We saw transitions from loving family man, to stone-cold killer, to accepting death, to child poisoner and all of it was powerful and believable. The character of Walter White is one of the best that we’ve seen on screen in some time and the right man is playing him. (He’s got one or three Emmys to prove it!)
Narcisse 1. Sean Bean (Game of Thrones) 2. John Noble (Fringe)
Sean Bean's performance in HBO's Game of Thrones was subdued, but succeeded in projecting a majestic persona. The head of the House of Stark was first and foremost a warrior with the right sense of honor, but also a loving father and a husband riddled with guilt. Because Eddard Stark wasn't a wordsmith, much of Bean's performance was muted, but it worked beautifully. Whether in a conversation with the actual monarch, or standing in front of the council or even sitting on the Iron Throne, Eddard Stark appeared definitely more "kingly" than others. Without any significant backstory over the entire first season, one could sense this was a man who had been through his share of cruelty (a good deal probably inflicted by him) and who had come out of it a better man. All that is why the character could afford to be honorable (and through that, infuriate the king and others) without coming across as a cliché. I believe it worked because Sean Bean also projected a bit of darkness, a bit of guilt, and a bit of pride and contempt with that persona.
Ali 1. Margo Martindale (Justified) 2. Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights)
Margo Martindale: Much like my winner for best actor, this woman was not the lead in the show in which she appeared, but Margo Martindale’s stint on Justified was incredible. For me, actress is a much less strongly contested category than actor - that’s not to say that women can’t act, but sadly there just aren’t nearly as many strong female characters as there are males on TV - but even if it were crammed with contestants, Margo Martindale may still have won. The character of Mags Bennett was an extremely complex woman who played either side of the line of morality to perfection. Margo took that well written part and turned it into such compelling viewing that by the season’s end, despite her many misdeeds, it was difficult to not completely love the character. She got herself an Emmy for the part and it’s very east to see why.
Connie Britton: If you’ve seen Friday Night Lights, then you know exactly why this woman deserves to be in the running for an acting award. She took the character of Tami Taylor - essentially an everyday American mom - and made her simply awesome and thoroughly compelling to watch. Season five of the show was probably her best ,as family tension for the Taylor’s hit the breaking point and that really is all that need be said. She was great in the previous four seasons, but somehow hitting new heights in the show’s final outing, she took herself from a regular contender to a heavyweight in the category.
Narcisse 1. Claire Danes (Homeland) 2. Anna Torv (Fringe)
Claire Danes is slightly ahead, because I have seen her in many other settings. Right from the start, the contrast with her other works shows how successful she is at portraying the troubled Carrie Mathison. In just a few scenes at the beginning of the series, the actress takes us into the life of a complex character who is fascinating, even if you don't particularly like her, which is a testament to the achievement of Danes. When the series starts, it is clear that Carrie Mathison's medical condition would have her "benched" if her boss at the CIA learned about it, but the story also manages very quickly to provide (only to the viewer) some elements that seem to support her hypothesis. This somehow allowed the audience to make the difference between the "crazy" Carrie and the brilliant Carrie both visible in Danes's performance.
Anna Torv, who was already excellent in previous seasons of Fringe, has delivered a memorable performance throughout the year as Olivia Dunham in both universes and in several timelines. She has made us care for the reclusive and buttoned up Olivia on This Side and made it impossible for us to really dislike Bolivia on The Other Side. But more importantly, she has been able to switch between the different iterations of the characters through some subtle details that made it much easier for the viewers: we could always tell which Olivia she was in spite of the hairdo and other potentially confusing elements.
Best New Show
Vincent 1. Game of Thrones 2. Homeland
With my Game of Thrones love already out of the way in best drama, I’ll focus on Homeland here. The show did have a have bumpy ending and needs to answer some very important questions, but this was a great ride that was willing to take risks. A certain something not working in the finale might have bothered some fans, but I love that the writers aren’t afraid of having their protagonist lose, at least for now. Despite having two greatly flawed people as leads, who fans could easily dislike, but rather they’re intriguing and engrossing. The show has a few small problems to fix, but overall it was a homerun for Showtime, which desperately needed some new blood when it comes to dramas.
Narcisse 1. Once Upon a Time 2. Game of Thrones
As my favorite drama of the year, Once Upon a Time — also in its freshman season — naturally wins this category. However, saying that the runner-up, HBO's Game of Thrones, wasn't impressive would be awfully wrong. The series is based on G.R.R Martin's "A Game of Thrones," the opening story in the book series "A Song of Ice and Fire." The lavish production has succeeded in more ways than one, bringing alive the world of Westeros in all its glory, fascination and pettiness. Unfortunately, just like a chess player, the show has often taken time to prepare the strikes, while Once Upon a Time — having much of the preparation made by fairy tales we are still familiar with — has had a master strike with each episode. Another reason why Game of Thrones failed to get the top spot stems from one of its qualities: the scale of the original story. The number of characters and storylines are such that the series often appeared as a patchwork and wasn't as successful as it could have been at making this about people (and dragons...) among other, more world threatening things.
Ali 1. Game of Thrones 2. Homeland
Game of Thrones: As I have already bestowed the best drama award upon it, it shouldn’t be any surprise that best new show goes to Game of Thrones. As I’ve already pointed out, it’s just outrageously good television and needs to be caught upon by everyone before the new season comes next year.
Homeland: Homeland is a runner-up by default for me. I’ve only watched a few other new shows this year in the form of Terra Nova and New Girl, both of which fall flat as supposed drama and comedy respectively. Homeland is good and you will have undoubtedly seen many critics going insane for it, calling it one of the best things on television, but that is a stretch. Personally, I was fairly disappointed with the show by the season’s conclusion, with over half of the season being a pretty solid waste of time and the other half standing on a fairly unstable set of assumptions. Nevertheless, it has one hell of a strong cast and that makes up for a lot. I will watch season two, but don’t let the critics fool you, a “thriller” this is not.
Narcisse 1. Olivia Dunham (Fringe) 2. Jon Snow (Game of Thrones)
Olivia Dunham started the year struggling with the idea that her burgeoning love for Peter Bishop had been spoiled by his relationship with her "doppelganger." That struggle brought out a female side of Olivia we hadn't seen before. In part pushed by unrelated events and by her desire to break with a pattern that had followed her since her childhood, she ultimately found the strength to forgive Peter. The relationship gradually brought out another side of the character unknown to viewers, which was refreshing. The series also gave a touching insight into Olivia's childhood with "Subject 13" and the wonderful child actress Karley Scott Collins. With all that, the story helped us understand the character better, in her struggle with herself as well as her determination to protect everyone, all things that naturally led to the stronger protagonist we saw at the end of the third season. Olivia Dunham is a personal favorite not because of her strength, but because of how much she's grown over the year and the fact that in all her iterations, there is a distinctive fragility to her despite that strength.
Game of Thrones, as any respectable tale of epic proportions, has a myriad of characters. Jon Snow, the bastard son of Eddard Stark (head of the House of Stark in the North) quickly stood out to me. His has been a life of frustration. He has never known his mother, he is a resident of Winterfell, but doesn't quite share all the benefits that come with being the son of the lord of the castle, and he is hated by Lady Stark, an otherwise "agreeable" woman. Despite all that and countless other reasons, he has the most touching relationships with his younger brother (Bran) and his younger sister (Arya) and even with the oldest son of Lady Stark. His struggle against those odds, his search of identity and his sense of honor all won me over.
Ali 1. Eddard Stark (Game of Thrones) 2. Tom Mason (Falling Skies)
Eddard Stark: Sean Bean didn’t make the cut for me as far as acting goes (really only because he didn’t have quite enough screen time to get there), but the character of Eddard Stark is really quite something. Before we get to know the cast in the early parts of Game of Thrones, his actions are the ones that we’re interested in. As the season progresses, we meet other people that we care about, but the loyal and honorable Eddard still commands respect above anyone else. Amongst a sea of backstabbers and deal makers, he never waivers from what he knows to be right - he’s pretty much the quintessential hero.
Tom Mason: Let’s be honest, despite getting a second season pick-up, Falling Skies wasn’t that great. One thing about the show that was great, however, was its leading man. Played by Noah Wyle, Mason has just about every quality that you could want in a hero. Brave, smart and charismatic, he shoulders a responsibility that he doesn’t want, taking the lives of hundreds of strangers as well as those of his children into his hands. Facing off against a powerful and mysterious enemy, Tom keeps it together when others are falling apart and by the season’s end, he makes what may be the ultimate sacrifice in an attempt to save others.
Vincent 1. Batiatus (Spartacus: Gods of the Arena) 2. Gus Fring (Breaking Bad)
Both of these villains are on polar opposites of each other in my mind. On one hand, you have Batiatus who is charismatic, hotheaded, fallible, and complete scum all at the same time, a character who will do anything to get ahead in life. On the other side is Gus Fring, who’s more of an all knowing, always calm, and always two-steps-ahead type antagonist. While Gus does feel like the bigger threat between the two, Batiatus feels far more complex and like a real human who’s not evil for the sake of being evil, but just wants to be the top dog and prove his father wrong. Both of these characters are played to perfection, but Batiatus comes out the winner, because in one scene he can be a hurt little boy, then follow it up a few minutes later by being the devil incarnate.
Ali 1. The Lannisters (Game of Thrones) 2. Gus Fring (Breaking Bad)
I was going to put Cersei Lannister as my number one villain as she really is despicable, but then I remembered (as if I’d forgotten) quite how much I hate Joffrey. Jaime sucks just as badly and Tywin - despite his limited screen time - just doesn’t sit well with me. While Tyrion really isn’t a bad guy (thus far), the family as a whole just seems largely evil. Using the idiocy of King Robert to all but buy the crown and then using the powers of pure evil to take it against his will following his passing, the Lannisters are just awful people. Joffrey’s one irredeemable act completely ended any potential debate about their decency and now I’m just counting down the seasons until they (hopefully) all die.
Gus Fring is a bad guy. On top of that, he’s really, really cool, which makes truly hating him extremely difficult, but actually hating him all the more impressive. Throughout Breaking Bad’s fourth season, the man just goes from strength to strength of villainy and he really isn’t afraid to kill anyone. The character created a dynamic in the show that constantly amped up the drama and his very real threatening of Walter’s family pushed him a notch above the rest as a bad guy. Ultimately, he didn’t quite get to achieve his evil ends, but he still goes down as one of the best bad guys in quite some time.
Narcisse 1. Evil Queen / Regina Mills (Once Upon a Time) 2. Victoria Grayson (Revenge)
In Once Upon a Time, whether we are revisiting past stories or following what is unfolding in Storybrooke, Regina Mills/Evil Queen has a commanding screen presence. The mayor Mills (Storybrooke) appears puzzled by many things while at the same time clearly hinting that she knows what circumstances could bring her "happiness" to an end, but I am not yet convinced she actually knows the actual truth as suggested in the intro. Although Evil Queen is every bit as devious in her schemes, Regina Mills seems a bit more conflicted (which is good in any character) and has a captivating way of delivering her lines. The tone of her voice, the way she stares intently and her smiles are bewitching. Lana Parilla has so far delivered an impressive performance as the quintessential villainess.
Victoria Grayson is the runner-up here mostly because of the way she smirks when uttering the most contemptuous words or when issuing threats. All of her persona projects a deep contempt for everyone and everything below her "condition" or her "standards" and that is rather fascinating.
Ali 1. Dexter 2. Homeland
I’ve already spoken at length about the many problems in the sixth season of Dexter, but in short, it was extremely predictable. After a somewhat disappointing fifth season, the promos for the most recent outing were very promising, but the outcome was simply not up to par.
Homeland: As I already mentioned, Homeland spent a fair bit of time doing absolutely nothing, supposedly building ‘interesting’ characters, but in reality just coasting until its underwhelming end. The acting was strong, but the characters were occasionally laughable in a drama that was supposed to be entirely serious.
Vincent 1. Dexter 2. The Walking Dead
There were two huge disappoints in 2011 that almost come neck and neck, but Dexter is going to take the prize here. What was once a great show, easily in the top tier of television, has fallen down to “just being watchable”. Huge mistakes like the Gellar twist being obvious two episodes in, the writing being too convenient (such as all of the police waiting for Dexter before they enter a crime scene that just happens to have his face painted on the wall), and Debra magically falling in love with her brother in about three episodes simply because her therapist mentioned it, have all irreversibly hurt the show. The storylines for the side characters have never been that great, but the intern storyline went nowhere this season and Laguerta/Deb arguing has gotten old. On top of all these issues, Travis is the worst villain they’ve had throughout the entire series. The only saving grace was the final moments of the season finale, since that could be a great storyline next season… if the writers don’t screw it up.
The Walking Dead season 2 has been a train wreck so far. It does come back in February to wrap-up its season, but up until now, only the season premiere and pseudo season finale have been good episodes. All the other episodes in-between can be summed up by people keeping stupid secrets, making dumb decisions, or yelling “Sophia!!!!” in the woods as they sweat. As someone who enjoys shows that are sometimes called “slow” and have little to no action, like Mad Men, Deadwood, or The Wire, I can honestly say that The Walking Dead goes beyond building an intricate plot and goes into being tedious to watch as well as feeling like aimless filler. The only bright spot here is Shane, who is the show’s only fully developed character; everyone else feels like they’re sleep walking (some pun intended).
Narcisse 1. Terra Nova
2. Falling Skies
Between the made up dinosaurs (while there are countless legitimate
species to pick from) and the unambitious story, Terra Nova has
hopefully dug its own grave. The show might not have the most
impressive cast, but their performance is not what ultimately explains
what I consider a failure. No, at the heart of it all lies the story
that was delivered in an amateurish way, delaying plot points and
wasting time on elements that should have been only briefly touched upon or
skipped altogether. The result made a 13-episode run feel much longer.
For its part, TNT's Falling Skies could have gone where no alien
invasion TV series had gone before, but it was crippled by another
unambitious production team and far from stellar performances by the
cast. Here, the production team didn't know what to do with their
aliens and had storylines requiring a reliable cast, something they
unfortunately didn't have. The two shows set out to be stories about a
family in dire circumstances (Late Cretaceous settlement and alien
invasion), but both had issues and possibly failed because of that goal.
The Show that Needs to End the Most
Ali 1. Bones 2. House
Of the shows that I actually watch, Bones is the one that just needs to disappear. It hasn’t been good in a fair little while, but like many police ‘dramas,’ after having invested so much time into watching it, it’s difficult to stop. If for no other reason than saving myself hours each year (on top of the fact that it largely sucks), it just needs to go away.
House is just the medical version of police dramas at this point. Up until mid season six, the characters were at the very least as important as each case, but after almost eight years, the show has just lost its edge. There is still an appeal to it which is why it remains on the air, but the show is far beyond its heyday.
Narcisse 1. Bones
Emily Deschanel's Temperance Brennan is arguably one of the best
characters to have graced the small screen over the past six years, but
all good things must end. I believe character-centric stories that set
out to tell a journey of transformation should avoid lingering or avoid
adopting a pattern of several steps back after a step forward: it is
insulting to the audience. Doctor Brennan's transformation over the
years from the forensic anthropologist devoid of social skills to
someone exploring new possibilities with the help of Seeley Booth
(David Boreanaz) and her wonderful team went fine until it started
going backward or stubbornly refused to move forward. The sixth season
of Bones is a testament to that, which is why the show should end
before becoming a caricature of itself. The issue with House is that it
has simply failed to reinvent itself in a compelling way. Trying to
recreate the same magic over and over again can only work for so long,
especially when the main character is one that can easily provoke
Vincent 1. Dexter 2. House
Dexter is the top pick here since a TV show hasn’t declined so much since Heroes season one to season two. The reasons for that decline have been outlined in “Biggest Disappointments”. Also, the very nature of such a serialized show like Dexter dictates that it needs to have a clear beginning, middle, and end such as Six Feet Under, rather than a drama that goes past its prime and fizzles out of relevancy. Speaking of going past your prime, the runner-up here is House, and while the show is still good, it’s not what it used to be. There are talks this might be the last season and I hope that’s true. The idea that one person can still legally be a high paid doctor after being in a mental hospital, running their car into their boss/ex-girlfriend’s home, and going to prison is a bit ludicrous. If there is another season, I’m afraid what they might do… House goes to space?
Ali 1. HBO 2. NBC
Game of Thrones and Boardwalk Empire are the only shows that really need to be mentioned when talking about HBO in 2011, but there’s quite a bit else on the channel that gives it the title. True Blood didn’t have its best season, but it remained watchable for quite a few people, Entourage rounded out its run with a reasonable ending and several TV movies including The Sunset Limited made for strong viewing.
The NBC Thursday night comedy block provides pretty much all of the comedy on TV that is actually funny, which is reason enough to make the channel a contender, but add in some reasonable dramas headlined by the final season of Friday Night Lights and you’ve got yourself an even stronger one. AMC would ordinarily be a shoe-in, but without any new Mad Men, comedy beats out Breaking Bad and its mediocre back-up dancers.